How to catch shrimp with a sport trawl
By Capt. Joe Kent
Often I receive questions from anglers about shrimping and what it takes to use a sport (non-commercial) shrimp trawl.
The lure of going out and catching a nice batch of shrimp for either fishing or table fare intrigues many anglers with boats and just about all of them want to know what it takes to operate a shrimp trawl, license requirements and the pros and cons of going after shrimp around the Galveston Bay Complex.
As I once prided myself as a sport shrimper, we will discuss many aspects of this sport in hopes of acquainting those interested with some of the basic information.
First, let’s take a look at the expense of the trawl and related equipment needed. The largest trawl allowed for sport or recreational use is a 20-foot trawl. Most of the trawls on the market range from 10 to 20 feet. Large trawls require a commercial shrimping license.
Like just about all sporting equipment, the prices for shrimp trawls run the gamut from reasonable to expensive. On the average you should expect to pay around $600.00 for the maximum-sized sport or bait trawl and even the smaller sizes are not too far from that.
Recreational shrimpers must have a Texas Fishing License and a Saltwater Endorsement. Additionally, each trawl must have a special tag commonly referred to as a shrimp tag.
Now, what type of boat and motor are suitable for recreational shrimping? While it is hard to pinpoint the best boat for this, there are certain features that are desirable and not desirable.
A Jon boat at least 14 feet in length powered by at least a 15 hp outboard is about the minimum and one suitable for back bays and protected waters. Larger, more seaworthy boats are needed for open waters.
There should be plenty of unobstructed room in the rear of the boat for loading and unloading the trawl. One thing for sure is that your boat will get quite dirty during the process.
Sport shrimpers are allowed two quarts of shrimp per person per day with a maximum of four quarts per boat per day.
Besides shrimp, many species of shell fish and small fin or bait fish are caught while dragging the trawl.
Now, before you take the plunge and purchase your shrimp trawl, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of recreational shrimping.
Operating a shrimp trawl by hand is a physically exhausting activity. I shrimped up until about 20 years ago and gave it up due to the physical stress that a post-50 year-old just did not want to endure to have fun.
As mentioned earlier, shrimping will bring mud, slime, and all sorts of debris into your boat. For that reason I had a 15-foot Jon boat designated just for dragging my trawl and putting out and retrieving crab traps.
Other not so fun things associated with this sport are hanging the net on submerged debris and other objects that take time and effort to untangle or get free.
Shrimping takes time away from fishing, if your are trawling for bait to fish that morning.
If there was one negative that I want to emphasize that would be not to have high expectations of catching a lot of shrimp. Yes, at times, that is the case; however, the likelihood of your taking your limit each time is very low.
Now, let’s look at the pros of shrimping! It is a fun sport with each retrieval of the trawl bringing intrigue as to what might be in the net.
Each quart of live shrimp you catch saves you about $20 at the bait shop.
Crabs are almost a given when shrimping and for those who enjoy eating crab, this would be a big benefit.
While it is illegal to retain game fish caught in a sport trawl, there are a lot of other fish that often are part of the catch. For offshore anglers, lots of chum is taken with each drag.
The surprise element is that there are always all sorts of marine life to be picked up off of the bottom, including lots of stingrays of all sizes. Once an alligator gar got caught up in the net and that was not a fun experience getting it out.
I have mostly pleasant thoughts of the years I shrimped off of Seabrook and would bring home some good seafood and bait.
While there is a lot more to this sport, some of the pointers above may prove useful and should give you a better idea of what is involved and hopefully get you started!